Stress Management Workbook 2

Behaviour and Stress


Exercise 1
Exercise 2
What Keeps Stress Going?
Exercise 3
Exercise 4
What Happens That Makes You Avoid?
What Does Avoidance Do to You?
Under Activity
Over Activity
Exercise 5
How To Combat Avoidance and Inactivity
How To Tackle Over-Activity
Summary Quiz
Useful Contacts


The aim of these Wellbeing Workbooks is to help you learn more about stress and the things you can do to help reduce your stress when you feel very worried or anxious.

What to Expect
  • There are four workbooks altogether and they should each take around 2 hours to complete
  • The workbooks should supplement the information you are learning about mental health in your school classes
  • Each workbook has information, exercises and games to help you learn about wellbeing
  • The exercises in the workbooks are simply there to aid your learning. You do not have to share any of your answers to the exercises; you can keep them as private as you would like to
  • If you are feeling really stressed and think you would like to talk to someone about this, there are phone numbers and websites available in the Useful Contacts section
In Session 1 We Looked At:
  • What stress is
  • What causes stress
  • How stress affects you
  • What keeps stress going
  • How you can change your lifestyle to make yourself feel less stressed
  • How you can begin to deal with stress
In Session 2 We Will Look At:
  • How stress affects our behaviour:
    • Avoidance
    • Under-activity
    • Over-activity
  • How stress can affect our thought process
  • How to work on avoidance and under-activity
  • Things to help when you do too much
Stress Relax Directions

Exercise 1: How is life just now?

Using the scale below, how good was life this week?

Now think about what has been happening in your life recently to make you feel this way. Think about the good things and the bad.

You can write your thoughts in the notepad below.

How is life just now?

Exercise 2: What makes a good life?

Using the scale below, mark where you think you would need to score in order to feel you have a ‘good life’

How would you know that you had reached a ‘good quality of life’? What would you be doing differently compared to now, if anything?

You can write your thoughts in the notepad below.

What makes a good life?

What maintains stress?

Stress can be caused by lots of things happening in our life all at once. This can make feel like there is too much to deal with at one time.

In the last session, we learned that the best way to deal with a lot of stress is to break the problem down and approach it in chunks. Today we will focus on how to make good changes to our everyday behaviour to deal with stress.

Stressed girl

To help you make beneficial changes to how you behave when you are stressed, it would be helpful to look at how you behaved before you were stressed and how you behave now. The next exercise will help you with these questions. Take your time and do each question one at a time.

Exercise 3

When you feel relaxed, what do you do?

How do you feel emotionally and physically when you are relaxed?

The word search below shows different situations which we may find hard when we are stressed. Think about how stress has affected you in these activities and what you could do to reduce this effect.

Exercise 4: How does stress affect your behaviour?

Stress affects our behaviour in many aspects of our everyday lives. We may avoid situations which have been stressful or emotional. We may increase or decrease several behaviours related to the stress we feel.

The list shows some ways in which stress can affect our everyday behaviour. You might experience all or some of the following:

  • Stop talking to other people
  • Stop answering the phone
  • Stop taking part in fun hobbies
  • Stop looking after yourself e.g. diet or appearance.
  • Avoiding things
  • Not sleeping
  • Trying to do too many things
  • Being very concerned with safety
  • Restlessness
  • Having arguments with people
  • Hesitating
  • Talking more quickly
How does stress affect what you do?
Do you do less – if so, in what way? What have you stopped doing?
Do you avoid situations or activities – if yes, what sort of things do you avoid?
Do you rush around trying to do too much – if yes, how so?


When we are stressed we may avoid stressful situations on purpose.

For example – You haven’t done your homework and are worried about asking for help.

A young student feeling stressed with a laptop in front of him

Result – The teacher may become annoyed/disappointed, and could send letters home to parents/guardians

What is avoidance?
  • Avoidance is a way of reducing our fears by escaping from things / situations that cause us stress.
Why do we do it?
  • We think we can't cope with a situation / person.
  • It can make us less stressed for a little while.

But the more we avoid things, the more we can lose confidence in ourselves and our ability to cope in lots of different situations

Types Of Avoidance

Simple Avoidance
  • Physically avoiding particular situations such as a supermarket or dogs
Subtle Avoidance
  • Putting things off
  • Not doing something outside our comfort zone
  • Using other to hide behind
  • Doing things to make yourself feel safe e.g. sitting near the exits in cinemas
  • Not asking friends to go out in case they say no
Avoidance cycle

What Does Avoidance Mean For You?

Complete the jigsaw below to discover some of the ways that avoidance can affect you.

So we know that stress can make us avoid situations that might make us stressed. But, stress can also affect how much we are able to do. We can do too little (under-activity) or do too much (over-activity).

Under Activity

What Is Under Activity?

  • When people feel stressed they often get tired easily and can’t be bothered doing things they’d normally do. They tend to give up their hobbies and things that used to make them happy
  • If stress puts you in a bad mood, you might not want to open up to people around you
  • Being under-active can make you less confident and make you do even less

How does under-activity affect you?

Being under-active can keep your feelings of stress and bad mood going. If you are under-active and in a bad mood for a while, this can sometimes lead to depression

A young student feeling stressed with a laptop in front of him

Over Activity

Stress can also make us want to do everything and to do it all the time.

Our behaviour can increase the amount of work we do. This can be a good thing if we have a lot of things to do and places to be, but too much over-activity can make us burn out and become .

A woman wondering why she is trying to do so much
Under-activity and over-activity can be seen as ways to avoid situations. For example, by keeping busy we can avoid some emotional issues.

Tackling Avoidance And Underactivity

Try to face the situations you find difficult or plan activities that you have stopped doing one by one

The first time you face a difficult situation, it may take a while for the worry to fade. The next time, it may not be so bad and the worry will fade away the more you do this. Keep going!

The first time you may feel tired or de-motivated when faced with a stressful situation, but your mood will improve if you are able to finish your plan and also acknowledge what steps you have achieved, no matter how small

Each time you face your fears your anxiety won't be as bad, and will drop off more quickly afterwards

Planning ahead of stressful situations can make facing these situations easier, so you start coping better in times of stress

How To Work On Avoidance And Underactivity

There are 5 steps that will help you in tackling your avoidance or inactivity.

Step 1

Make a list of things that you have been avoiding or have stopped doing.

Step 2

Choose which one to do first. List them in order of difficulty and start with which one you will find the easiest to do.

Step 3

State clearly and specifically what it is you want to do.

Step 4

Plan the steps to carry out.

Step 5

Do it and review it.

Let's look at some examples and try it for ourselves. Here are two people, John and Rebecca, who are taking steps to improve avoidance and under activity.
Both John and Rebecca have been under a lot stress recently. As a result:
  • John had some panic attacks in public places with a lot of people around and is now avoiding busy public places; this is having an impact on his social life
  • Rebecca has slowly withdrawn from friends and family as her mood and confidence has been low

Step 1: List Things You Have Stopped Doing

List of things that John and Rebecca have stopped doing because of stress Now it's your turn

Make a list of the things that you've been avoiding or have stopped doing

Step 1 Look back at Exercise 2 which looked at things you might want to change to have a better 'quality of life'. Thinking about activity level – avoiding things; not doing much; doing too much, list the things you want to change here:

Step 2: Choose What To Work On First

Do this by arranging your list in order of difficulty and start with what you find easiest

List of things that John and Rebecca have stopped doing because of stress Now it's your turn

Which one are you going to tackle first?

Step 2 Choose which one to tackle first. Do this by arranging the list in order of difficulty and start with what you will find the easiest to tackle first:

Step 3: State Clearly What you Are Going To Do

List of things that John and Rebecca have stopped doing because of stress Now it's your turn

Be specific about what it is you are going to do

Step 3 Decide clearly and specifically what you would like to be able to do. Give details about where, when and how you imagine yourself doing it:

Step 4: Plan These Steps To Carry It Out

List of things that John and Rebecca have stopped doing because of stress Now it's your turn

Write down the benefits of tackling this

Step 4 Plan the steps to carry this out. Again give specific details; dates, times, exactly what you will do – all the 'when's, 'where's' and 'how's'. Write it here:

Step 5: Try It And Review It

Make a note for how things went – what went well, what didn’t go so well, what you have gained from this experience and any ideas for future practice.

  • How did you feel and what were you thinking when you were doing the task you set yourself?
  • What did others do that helped it go well?
  • How did you feel after you carried out your plan?
  • Was there anything you would do differently the next time?
  • Acknowledge each step of your achievements, no matter how small

Planning The Next Steps

  • Plan and practice the first step in your plan (Step 4) until you can manage this without difficulty, then move onto planning your next goal
  • In relation to avoidance, do not move onto the next step until you have mastered the first and are no longer experiencing physical symptoms
Person taking notes
Points To Remember
  • Some people with depression may find that it takes time until they start to enjoy things again as much as they used to.
  • Some people with anxiety may find that it takes time until their physical symptoms begin to fade. By practicing regularly, physical symptoms will pass.
  • Set yourself small, manageable goals, which will have a high chance of success. Take one small step at a time.
After Each Step
  • Acknowledge each step and perhaps give yourself a small reward every time you complete each task.
  • Share your success with friends and family.
So that’s us dealing with avoidance and under-activity. The other behavioural extreme that stress can cause is that we can become over-active – which can cause us additional stress.

How To Tackle Over Activity

A woman wondering why she is trying to do so much

Tips for dealing with over-activity

  • Make a daily list (use activity diary in handout) to plan the week ahead
  • Stick to one task at a time and see it through
  • Make the amount of activity reasonable including time for rest and relaxation
  • Set aside time for yourself and to do things you enjoy
  • Remember you are not superhuman


Remember, it will not be easy making changes especially when you are stressed so it is important to try to work on your motivation levels. If you are feeling low or anxious then your motivation will already be low or you will probably be feeling very tired which will also affect your motivation.

Summary Quiz

Q1: How can stress affect your behaviour?

  • a. Taking time to relax
  • b. Reading a book
  • c. Over-activity – taking on too many things at one time
  • d. Meditating

Q2: Why do we avoid some situations when we are stressed?

  • a. People have learned through past experiences, thoughts and behaviours to avoid some stressful situations in order to reduce the feeling of stress
  • b. When people are stressed,they avoid some situations because they are lazy
  • c. People may avoid some situations when they are stressed because they are too busy
  • d. Stress can make people sleep all the time and they might sleep through stressful situations

Q3: How does under activity affect you?

  • a. You are doing too much at one time and this can lead to exhaustion
  • b. You may stop doing activities you enjoy, which can make you feel bad about yourself, which can in turn make you feel worse
  • c. You may avoid stressful situations altogether
  • d. You might find something fun to do in order not to be bored

Q4: Which of the following does not describe over-activity?

  • a. Doing too much work
  • b. Not finding time to relax
  • c. Rushing around
  • d. Being too exhausted to do anything

Q5: Which of the following is not a helpful way to reduce stress?

  • a. Reading a book
  • b. LIstening to music
  • c. Exercise
  • d. Taking on more work at one time

Useful Contacts

  • Childline
  • Mental Health Foundation
  • Mind
    • Promotes views and needs of people with mental health problems
    • Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)
  • NHS
    • Young suicide prevention
    • Phone: 0800 068 4141 (Mon-Fri,10am-5pm & 7-10pm. Weekends 2-5pm)
  • Rethink Mental Illness
    • Support and advice for people living with mental illness
    • Phone: 0800 5000 927 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-4pm)
  • SafeSpot
    • An app and website designed for young people to improve coping skills and access information about mental health
    • App: available on Google play/Apple store for free
  • Samaritans
    • Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair
    • Phone: 116 123 (free, 24hour)